The talent market place is changing as UK businesses look for ways to avoid a skills shortage situation. This means boundaries are being crossed as companies look outside their traditional talent pools when recruiting, with more effort needed to ensure employers stand out from the crowd, explains Carole Moore, head of HR development at LeasePlan.
For as long as companies have existed, recruitment has existed – and for as long as recruitment has existed, the question “what experience do you have?” has been a crucial starting point. Knowing what any given candidate has done with their professional life and how they’ve ended up sitting across the table from you has been a vital factor in deciding whether or not they’re right for the job at hand.
Despite the enduring nature of the question, though, the ‘right answer’ is beginning to change. In the past, the number one box to tick has generally been a proven track record in your industry. A logical enough conclusion you’d have thought, and certainly one that remains important today.
However, the modern business world is full of people with skills that can easily be transferred from one industry to the next. Whereas industry specific expertise used to be the Holy Grail, skills such as general business acumen, relationship management and customer service excellence are increasingly becoming the prized possessions of the interviewee.
Add to that the nature of the modern talent market place and it’s easy to see why recruitment is beginning to change. The job market is flooded with people looking to change career – indeed a recent study suggested that over half the working population is looking to change career in the near future. With people moving from industry to industry with relative ease, a wide range of businesses from various areas are starting to compete for the same talent.
Expertise from outside the industry
The phenomenon is more prevalent in industries which are relatively mature. Take our industry – car leasing – as an example. The UK has perhaps the most developed car leasing industry in the world – more advanced than even the USA, where the car is king. Because of this, all the big leasing companies can boast an impressive array of leasing expertise and processes, honed over years of success in the industry.
With such a well developed pool of talent, it often takes expertise from outside the industry to really push it forward and stop it from stagnating. For our part, we’re putting a big emphasis on customer service and relationship development at LeasePlan.
As well as recruiting leasing experts, we’re also looking outside the industry for candidates with a proven track record in building relationships with organisations. To date, that has meant hiring senior people with backgrounds in anything from telecoms to field marketing.
So, with the borders of the talent market being broken down, how should companies approach their recruitment? The first challenge is for recruitment companies themselves. The message here is clear – the net needs to be cast wider in the search for the top talent. Candidates that may otherwise have been thought unsuitable for a role need to be looked at more carefully. Many softer elements need to be recognised – not just looking at the industries they’ve worked in, but the role they’ve played in those industries.
This means a closer relationship with the company you’re recruiting for. You need to be sure what skills they need. Instead of simply being a supplier, recruiters need to be in partnership with their clients so they can really understand what they need rather than only looking at candidates from the same industry.
The second challenge is to the companies. By recruiting people from other industries, you’ll start to dip your toes into other pools of talent. Because of that, competition for the best talent will be tougher than ever before. The approach that is needed will be different than if you were simply going for the same candidates as always.
What do you really need?
How can companies measure up to this challenge? A good first step is looking at what you need. Instead of just thinking what experience a candidate needs to fill a given role, think about what is needed to really extend that role. Sure, industry expertise is important, but if your company is to really move forward, maybe different competencies are needed as well. Again, things like customer service expertise or client services strengths could be taken into account rather than simply industry specific know-how.
From there, you need to think about what makes you stand out as an employer – not just from others within your industry but from other employers across the board. This can be a daunting task for companies used to just competing for talent with their direct rivals, but it’s vital if you’re to measure up favorably with the business world at large.
The results of this new approach will be worth all the hurdles you have to jump to achieve them. We’ve seen a number of senior figures contribute vastly to our aim of improving customer service and it’s now one of our biggest selling points in the market.
The key is recognising that, in any mature market place, the skills that are needed to keep a company moving forward will not necessarily always be the skills that built the original success. Industry expertise and the value of ‘getting the job done’ will always remain central to maintaining success. To build on that success though, a wide range of other skills will be vital.